What Is A Healthy Body Fat Percentage For You?

It's important to know whether you have a healthy body fat percentage. But it isn't always easy to work out whether yours is healthy or not.

You may have realised that your bathroom scale can't tell you how much body fat you have, and whether it's a healthy level.

It tells you nothing about the ratio of muscle to fat. Nor does it show how this ratio has been affected over a series of workout sessions.

Even measuring your BMI (Body Mass Index) doesn't tell you whether you have a healthy body fat percentage or not. That's because BMI is just based on the ratio of weight to height. That doesn't tell you anything about the make-up of your body (called your body composition).

Everyone’s body composition is different. For example, let's assume two women of the same height, size and age calculate their BMI. But one is an average woman who is not very active and the other is a professional athlete. Although they are the same size, height and age, their BMI could be very different. The average woman's BMI could fall into the healthy range while it's possible the athlete might even be classified as obese! (I know – it sounds incredible, doesn't it?)

This is because they have very different body compositions. The professional athlete will have a significantly higher amount of muscle. Therefore she will weigh more, because muscle is heavier than fat. In reality, she would very likely have a lower body fat percentage but her BMI would put her in the obese range. The BMI formula does not take any of this into account and goes on the assumption that everyone has the same body composition.

There are many methods to measure your body fat percentage. But most of these methods are impractical and even expensive. The only easy and reliable ways to determine your body fat percentage at home are to use a skin fold calliper or an electrical fat scale.

After measuring your body fat, a quick and easy way to see if you have a healthy body fat percentage is to check the chart below. If your body fat percentage falls in the “below” category, that means that you don't have enough body fat to sustain a healthy body. In contrast, if you're in the “overweight” or “obese” range, you need to lose some fat.

If you're in any category other than “healthy”, it can have adverse effects on your body and even put you at risk of a number of health problems. Doing exercises such as weight training and adopting healthy eating habits will help you get into – and stay in – the healthy body fat percentage range.



Age

Body Fat Percentage Range

Below

Healthy

Overweight

Obese

20-40

<21%

21-33%

33-39%

>39%

41-60

<23%

23-35%

35-40%

>40%

61+

<24%

24-36%

36-42%

>42%


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